Computer Mediated Communication and Language
Computer mediated communication is defined as a form of communicative transaction which takes place through the use of two or even more networked computers. The term is traditionally applied to refer to those communication processes that occur through computer mediated formats such as use of e-mails, chat rooms and instant messages. These forms of commutations are said to have negative social effects on our language acquisition and capabilities. Many studies taking the form of sociopsychological approach have been conducted to explain the concept of computer mediated communication examining how the human species make use of computers in managing their interpersonal relationships and forms of impression in the verge of maintaining close contacts among themselves. Such studies lay emphasis on the differences between offline and online interactions (Hough, 2004, p.23). In other cases, experts focus their attention on the use of paralinguistic features such as emotions, and especially the use of pragmatic rules such as turn taking in the sequential analysis of talk organization. They also focus on the use of various socialists, registers and styles in the environment. The ways in which human beings communicate are very professional and highly social.
However, educational settings vary depending on the environment and also the methods of communication in which communication proceeds. The very common forms of communication mediated techniques are videos, audio text, e-mails and chats. These settings are increasingly changing on daily basis due to the rapid changes in technology. However communication taking place within the computer mediated techniques have got effects on many different aspects of interaction which include aspects such as impression formation, group dynamics, deception and lying dishibition and especially relationship construction (Kitade, 2008, p.13).
This mode of communication is compared to other modes of communication adapted universally and it is believed that the association of messages send or received vary in different ways globally. For instance, instant messaging is said to be prototypically synchronous but it is rarely persistence since it loses all the content once the dialog box closes not unless one has a message log set. On the other hand, instant messages board and e-mails are almost similar simply because they are both prototypically low in synchrocity and response sometimes varies. They are said to be highly persistant and instantly saved. The properties that distinguish computer mediated communication from other modes include aspects such as transience which is multimodal in nature with a relative inability to govern the codes of conducts. Therefore, computer mediated communication allows the interaction of people who are not physically sharing the same physical space (Walther, Tidwell, 1995, p.16). Security, anonymity and privacy in this mode of communication depend largely on the context and the particular program or web page being used. If we can consider the impacts produced by internet and still procedures on our lives, then we actually realize a wide range of possibilities resulting from this mode of communication (Hough, 2004, p.17).
Reflecting on these possibilities we consider the social changes that we produce in our attempts to try new ways of social and cultural interaction and the resulting need to restructure political, sociological or cultural questions. Such kinds of interaction lead to the formation of the so- called virtual communities. Such communities permit the existence of relationships which are said not to be virtual. People in these virtual communities use language on screens to exchange pleasantries, argue, conduct commerce, share emotional support, brainstorm, and gossip, make friends engage in intellectual discourse, flirt and make a lot of idle talks. These people in these communities do exactly what every one does in real life only that they leave their bodies behind. Basically all these methods of communication are linguistic. However, the absence of language in most of them would make communication impossible. Computer mediated communication has become a tool of communication in both written and oral language making communication a new type of social interaction which its barriers cut beyond the physical space. It comes along with varied problems on account of their characteristics. Millions of people today, in different cultures and places are able to engage in different dialogues through new means of communication which cause some optimistic reactions. Most discussed problems do not lie only along the linguistic scope but they extend to the field of psychology and sociology (Nardi, 2005, p.12).
The major problem with this mode of communication is the issue concerning the communicative competence. When we discuss the issue of communicative competence, we actually refer to Chomsky’s concept regarding the kind of knowledge, in the language used by all speakers. Competence in this sense is said to be grammatical and mental. It does not take into consideration the usage and presumes or the existence of both a homogeneous community and an idealized speaker-listener context. It is based on ideal and abstract linguistic objects that are outside its context. According to my own understanding of the term ‘communicative competence’, we not only know our language but we should also have another kind of knowledge that helps has determine for example, when we should talk, and when we should not talk, whom to talk to, in what ways and how? This kind of knowledge is fruit for social and cultural experiences. Communicative competence is therefore seen as the ability to contextualize and make sense out of what is said in respect to what we know .It is indeed the fact of understanding how to ask a question, how to greet a person or how to say goodbye to somebody as dictated by certain socio cultural conventions. The failure to be aware of such conventions becomes a problem that frustrates linguistic exchanges. The conventions are recognized in language and in some cases they consist of wards that are represented by the intonations or accents which are only visible in face to face conversations (Shin, 2006, p.7). Any linguistic community is defined based on the competence notion. The art of having common linguistic competence and communicative competence makes a group to be considered linguistic. In computer mediated conversation communication is based on text and in most cases it fails to offer such features unlike the communication that is conducted face to face. Nonverbal indicators such as expressions, looks, gestures and accent which occur when participants are present in similar physical environments cannot be detected in computer mediated communication. The major palliative that leads to the absence of non verbal indicators is the use of electronic paralanguage which offers interlocutors with the so called emotions. This kind of communication is palliative and communication is said to be synchronic. It bears only one advantage of being interactive in nature while the absence of a physical environment and the inability to have a face to face dialogue constitutes the major disadvantages. Therefore computer mediated communication denies the participants opportunities to engage in freer and egalitarian communication (Rooksby, 2002, p.9).
Another aspect of language that is highly influenced by computer mediated communication is conversation. Conversation is said to be the prototypical manner applied in language. That is, the way we get exposed to language and the means through which we acquire language. It is a linguistic phenomenon which tries to give a description of the organization of dialogue on the basis of alteration of turn taking which are respected by speakers and prevent overlaps. Chats conducted online are conceived as conversations. They consist of dialogues between two or more people. Online conversations bear one characteristic that is, tuning taking which is fixed and governed by a fixed channel as compared to face to face dialogues. Turn taking administration is limited and speakers have got no control. What is observed in computer mediated communication is the so called adjacency pairs, while in oral communication adjacency pairs can be used to respond to statements made in sequence especially in the establishment of relationships such as question –answer ,or greeting – greeting forms (Rooksby, 2002, p.13).
In oral conversations adjacency pairs play a double function task in chats that many people engage in .They enable a person to identify who is speaking and they give coherence to the speech. In computer mediated communication the simultaneous abundance of participation hinders understanding .That is the reason as to why answer connected with the former question directs participants to take course of their interactions. As in computer mediated communications face to face communication is also found to have adjacency pair interaction control. In normal conversations the speaker monitors the effects of his participation upon other people and he has the ability to correct if necessary misunderstandings. Online chats do not account for paralinguistic features such as looks, laughs, and gestures found in face to face conversations. They also don’t consider prosodic features such as intonation that are present in phone conversations. Online conversation is a mode of a communication that has been linked to oral language and face to face conversation. In Computer mediated communication, conversation may occur without use of oral language and face to face communication. This mode of conversation is linked with written language producing a categorical change which is said to affect not only the notion of what the conversation is all about but the speaking writing dichotomy as well. Chats are therefore spontaneous conversations which are carried out in writing. They don’t offer any paralinguistic signals or interlocutor physical attendance (Ady, 1999, p.22).
As stated earlier the duration of speech during turn taking in computer mediated communication is controlled by the channel. Many a times this condition affects the coherence of the conversation. However, they only express speech acts such as questioning, greeting and affirming. According to speech theories computer mediated communications do not take into account interactions because they consider language as a way of action. These theories pose language as a term in of communication act, such that in every communication one can recognize the expression of certain content by observing what the speaker is doing with that expression as well. These speech acts represent the basic units of human communication (Ady, 1999, p.27).
The issue of politeness in communication is a significant tool for human language. Politeness extends beyond the so called “netiquette”. It is used to transmit the so called the intentional and strategic behavior which responds to the need of maintaining a positive image to others. As people try to interact with each other they try to introduce and maintain a public image about themselves. The act of maintaining the image is an essential source of motivation for human interaction. The so called image has got two dimensions. Positive dimension is important for positive recognition by others aiming at the positive appraisal of their wishes. The common techniques employed involve reciprocity and optimism demonstrations of sharing similar viewpoints. On the other hand negative image is marked by the right to non- imposition, prevention of a certain degree of autonomy and the freedom to act. Negative politeness is observed in what could be called the respectful behavior. The best offer that is common in oral conversation is the option to reject a proposal if so desired or pessimism for demonstrations. It is encouraging to observe how politeness works when confronting with a chat corpus (Geelan, Taylor, 2001, p.31).
Different uses of politeness techniques are commonly registered. Both negative and positive politeness. But unlike other conversations especially the online conversations, large group talks are carried out without a clear purpose and these acts directly threaten these images. In general circumstances face to face conversations are associated with occasions whose characteristics justify their course .For instance; general direct commands are not understood as threats due to the urgency of the moment. Chats carried online lack physical context, anonymity and a number of participants in the process are affected. Interacting parties do not employ any strategies to attenuate their actions and they do not respect netiquette rules either.
A major feature in language that is highly influenced by computer mediated communication is the linguistic structure of sentence construction. In normal circumstances computer mediated language is seen as complex, less correct and also less coherent than standard written language. Messages posted in the internet are viewed as whole new fractured language that is definitely less elegant and polished as original English used to be .Participants of computer mediated communication make use of subordinate clauses and narrow range of vocabularies which result to the decline of expressive functions of language. This mode of communication contains non standard features and only a small percentage of these features appear to have errors which occur intentionally or through lack of know how to understand standard forms of language. Majority of these errors are made deliberately by users in order to minimize the charging pledged in typing or to mimic features of spoken language in order to express themselves more creatively. Another deliberate error that results from unconventional orthography is the textual use of auditory data such as laughter, prosody and other non language sounds (Vanlear, et al, 2005, p.35).
Just like the format of speech reflects cognitive challenges in real life language encoding, for instance, the lexical density and the length of information in units in a text, synchronous modes impose the use of temporal constraints on users which translate to the reduction of linguistic complexity which is relative to asynchronous settings. Many computer specialists believe that computer mediated communication is a cool medium of transferring data from place to place but it is poorly suited to social uses. It is seen to have a utopian egalitarian potential with social cues which are filtered out and any one can take part freely in an open democratic exchange. The Social life that teems from the internet does not yield rich sources of data which can be applied in the study of discourse and social practice. On top of computer mediated communication being shaped by social circumstances, it constitutes social practices in itself (Bardia, 1997, p.28). Constructing texts is the only method mostly used to perform interractional work due to the fact that it allows participants the freedom to choose their wards with greater care which reveals less doubts and insecurities than it is in spontaneous speech. Thus, users take the opportunity to flirt, negotiate and tease one another without having met their interlocutors face to face.
Use of computers in communication has lead to development of a number of compensatory strategies in order to replace social cues which are occasionally conveyed by other channels in face to face communication. The most commonly used method of is the use of smiley faces or emoticons made up of ASCII characters in order to represent facial expressions. The prototypical emoticons normally function to indicate levels of happiness or friendly intent interractional frames. Physical actions and facial expressions are however represented textually. Typed actions such as yawning serve as contextualization cues which create playful and relaxed discourse for interaction (Martin, Spears, 1992, p.20).
The social power of computer mediated language is however, not limited to the accomplishment of social work among individuals but it offers the insight that institutions are by themselves formed and maintained through discourse. This is only truer in the internet where communities and users are seen to be coming together without sharing neither geographical space nor time in creating social structures extensively out of their words. On line communication generates rules and sanctions against violation of such rules and provides a system of governance that helps to enforce the sanctions held by individuals or groups. The computer mediated communications also inherits asymmetries from the broader historical and economic context of internet. These notions refer to the traditional dominance of United States which is the leading source of computer networked technology. One area that has been critically examined in this mode of communication is gender asymmetry. Studies done on this section show that gender differences disfavor female participants. Another growing major concern in this field of communication is the dominance of English language on the internet leading to possible effects of the global spread of U.S cultures and values (Holt, 2004, p.16). This discourse effects the mode communication using native languages. Computer networked communications therefore do not offer democratic opportunities for interaction due limitations held in language usage. The pre existing social agreements which are carried out in the cyber create uneven play ground and the computer mediated communication can be used for oppression or resistance.
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